Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Icons Converge: Ford Mustang Celebrates 50 Years at Empire State Building


Two of the world’s most recognizable icons came together last April 16-17, as the all-new 2015 Ford Mustang convertible will be on display on the observation deck of the Empire State Building in New York. The display – replicating the same feat from nearly 50 years ago – coincides with the global celebration of 50 years since Mustang debuted at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York.

“New York is one of the greatest cities in the world, and it’s the place where the Ford Mustang story began 50 years ago,” said Mark Fields, Ford chief operating officer. “We’re thrilled to be visiting the architectural landmark that has been the heart of the Manhattan skyline for 83 years with the newest generation of the car that is the soul of Ford Motor Company.”

Taking a car 86 stories above the densely populated streets of Midtown Manhattan is no simple task. No portable crane can reach the 86th floor observatory, and the spire towering above the relatively narrow deck makes helicopter delivery impossible. That leaves the elevators as the only viable option.

When the Empire State Building opened in 1931 as the world’s then tallest building – a title it held for nearly 40 years – no one would have envisioned trying to transport a car up in the original elevators. But in 1965, a prototype Mustang convertible was sliced into three main sections plus windshield so that the sections would fit into those elevators.

“New York is one of the greatest cities in the world, and it’s the place where the Ford Mustang story began 50 years ago,” said Mark Fields, Ford chief operating officer. “We’re thrilled to be visiting the architectural landmark that has been the heart of the Manhattan skyline for 83 years with the newest generation of the car that is the soul of Ford Motor Company.”

Taking a car 86 stories above the densely populated streets of Midtown Manhattan is no simple task. No portable crane can reach the 86th floor observatory, and the spire towering above the relatively narrow deck makes helicopter delivery impossible. That leaves the elevators as the only viable option. When the Empire State Building opened in 1931 as the world’s then tallest building – a title it held for nearly 40 years – no one would have envisioned trying to transport a car up in the original elevators. But in 1965, a prototype Mustang convertible was sliced into three main sections plus windshield so that the sections would fit into those elevators.

“Like all good craftsmen, our team is measuring twice and cutting once to make sure we can get this Mustang up in the elevators,” said Dave Pericak, Mustang chief engineer. “Like the team that did this in 1965, the current crew visited the Empire State Building before starting and took careful measurements of its new elevators and doors before cutting up the car.”

The 2015 Mustang is nearly seven inches longer and four inches wider than its ancestor, making the task of transporting it up even more challenging. Working from computer engineering data, team members preparing the display car have found just the right places to make the cuts so everything can be loaded onto custom-made racks that can be rolled into the elevators.

Once everything is uncrated and transported up 86 floors, the technicians had less than six hours to reassemble the sections into a complete car that was on display above Manhattan.

“It is a privilege to celebrate the new Ford Mustang, to bring together our two iconic brands, and to make new history with Ford,” said Empire State Realty Trust Chairman, President and CEO Anthony E. Malkin. “The Empire State Building and Ford Mustang are both historic innovators – today, as in the past.”


Displaying a 2015 Mustang Convertible 1,000 Feet Above Manhattan: Some Assembly Required

As the world honors 50 years of Ford Mustang, what better way to celebrate one of the most iconic car brands than putting one back on top of one of the most iconic buildings? When Ford and the Empire State Building decided to display a new 2015 Mustang convertible on the 86th floor observation deck, Ford turned to a longtime supplier for the unique expertise required to make this happen.

In a world where tiny startups are regularly swallowed up by established behemoths, Ford Motor Company and Romulus, Mich.-based DST Industries have been collaborators for nearly six decades. In 1965 – the only other time in the Empire State Building’s 83-year history a car was displayed on its open-air deck – a DST crew was on hand to show off that Mustang convertible.

“This week, the band is getting back together as Ford and DST bring the all-new Mustang to the Empire State Building to honor 50 years on sale,” said Dave Pericak, Mustang chief engineer. “We’ve taken the new Mustang to new heights of technology and refinement, so we decided to take it to new heights literally for this celebration.”

The all-new Mustang may be more advanced than ever before, but sometimes physical limitations demand old-school techniques to get a job done.

“When we sat down to start plotting this out in mid-February, everyone quickly realized that some old-school craftsmanship would be needed to successfully place this car more than 1,000 feet above the crowded streets of Manhattan,” said George Samulski, manager, Ford North America design fabrication. “The deck is too high to reach with a portable crane from the street, and the spire that towers more than 400 feet above that narrow deck makes helicopter delivery impossible.”

The only other car display on the Empire State Building observation deck happened in October 1965, when a crew from DST, including retired technician Claude Cochran, sectioned a Mustang convertible so that it could be fit into the elevators of the building.

Following a site inspection in New York to meticulously measure all of the elevators and doors, the engineering team in Dearborn sat down with a scale model of the new Mustang and started drawing lines on it with a marker to represent where it should be cut. The Empire State Building is a historic landmark, with original art deco wood and brass trim in the elevators, so it was crucial to ensure everything have plenty of clearance.

“The only real problem we had in 1965 was the steering wheel,” said Cochran. “When we tried to roll the middle section of the car with the windshield removed into the elevator, the top of the wheel stuck out a bit too far through the door, so we had to tip the cart a bit to get it in.”

In preparing for the 2014 event, the team worked with two early prototype Mustang convertible body shells. The car that would ultimately make the trip to New York was completely stripped down and the surface cleaned up to make sure everything looked perfect before it was sectioned and painted.

The second body was used as a donor by the metal fabricators to determine where to make the cuts and to fit a custom-built tubular steel subframe that would hold all the sections together. The fabricators built custom rolling carts and wooden crates for each section.

Getting from the loading dock to the observation deck requires riding a freight elevator and two separate passenger elevators. A wood mockup of the smallest elevator was built in the shop to verify everything would fit. Each of the loaded carts was then weighed to ensure everything stayed within the weight limits of the elevator and the observation deck.

“The observation deck is open to the public from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m., leaving our crew of six with only a six-hour window to get everything out onto the deck and get the car assembled,” said Pericak. “Before we shipped the crates to New York, the crew spent several days practicing the entire assembly process – timing everything down to the minute – much like a NASCAR or Formula One pit crew.”

With several weeks of fabricating and practice behind them, and the crates on a truck and headed to New York, the DST crew is resting up ahead of some long nights this week assembling and disassembling the Mustang.


The Triple Yellow 2015 Mustang convertible was on display for visitors to the Empire State Building observation deck last April 16-17.

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